Archive for November, 2011

Crazy California Claire and a Mamalita book giveaway

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

For the past few days, I’ve been in New Jersey for my high school reunion, and to speak at my alma mater and another high school about adoption, Guatemala, and memoir-writing. Each of those elements deserves an essay, but right now, I’m catching up on subjects I meant to post about days ago, before the hubbub of Thanksgiving  and the subsequent cross-country trek.

One subject I must note is this great review of Mamalita on the blog Crazy California Claire. “Claire” is Claire Hennessy, fellow Writing Mama and good friend. That’s Claire in the photo above; you can see in her face that she’s full of laughter. I recommend Claire’s blog not only because she’s giving away free copies of Mamalita, but also because Claire is a very funny writer whose essays I love to read myself. Currently, Claire is penning a memoir about being a British woman who, after a 30-year separation, married her boarding school sweetheart and moved “across the pond” to Marin County, California, which is where we met. Like everyone else who knows Claire, I eagerly await her book’s publication. I guarantee the read will be delicious.  To enjoy more of Claire’s work, visit the Writing Mamas website and search for her name.

Thanks for the shout-out Claire! ~


Facebook friends, please vote to help the children of Guatemala

Monday, November 21st, 2011

I’ve posted before about two organizations our family has visited and supports in Guatemala: Mayan Families and Mission Guatemala. Another worthy group that works in the Lake Atitlan region is Amigos de Santa Cruz. Right now, all three are trying to win grants from Chase Community Giving, in a giveaway hosted by Chase on Facebook.

If you’re on Facebook, please help them succeed by following these simple directions to cast your vote. Voting ends Tuesday, November 22. So please act now!

Here’s a note from Sharon Smart-Poage of Mayan Families:

Chase Community Giving is giving money to 100 non-profits.
First place is $250,000.
2nd,3rd, 4th and 5th all receive $100,000.
…6th place through 100th place all will receive $25,000 each.

Each person gets 10 votes. Please vote for Mayan Families, Amigos de Santa Cruz, and Mission Guatemala. We work together, and can all win. (more…)


Adoption numbers continue to fall

Friday, November 18th, 2011

On November 16, the Washington Post reported that Foreign adoptions by Americans decline again, to lowest levels since 1994.

“The number of foreign children adopted by Americans fell by 15 percent last year, reaching the lowest level since 1994 due largely to sharp cutbacks by China and Ethiopia, sources of most adoptees in recent years.

“Figures released Tuesday by the State Department for the 2011 fiscal year showed 9,320 adoptions from abroad, down from 11,059 in 2010 and down nearly 60 percent from the all-time peak of 22,884 in 2004.


“Guatemala accounted for 4,123 adoptions by Americans in 2008, the most of any country that year. But the number sank to only 32 last year as the Central American nation’s fraud-riddled adoption industry was shut down while authorities drafted reforms.”

If you’re reading this blog, you probably know that adoptions from Guatemala closed in December 2007; the 32 cases finalized in 2011 have been in process since then.

An article published yesterday by NPR,  Fewer Babies Available for Adoption by U.S. Parents,  quotes Susan Jacobs, the State Department’s special adviser for children’s issues:

“What we see is a country becoming fashionable. People go to the countries where it’s easiest to adopt, where the rules are lax and you can do an adoption quickly and perhaps get a baby.”

In my opinion, the key part of Jacobs’ statement is “people go to where… the rules are lax.” History has proven that the rules must not be “lax.” The rules must be ironclad, and enforceable. Again, from the NPR article:

“That’s why the Hague Convention on intercountry adoption is important, Jacobs says. The international accord, drafted in 1993 and implemented by the U.S. in 2008, is meant to regulate a formerly wide-open international adoption marketplace.”

The fact is that a country’s adoption system can be only as ethical and transparent as that country’s government determines it must be. Like any industry that involves money, adoption must be closely monitored and regulated, and participants who break the law must be prosecuted. Otherwise, stories like these will repeat again and again, until the total number of adoptions plummets to zero.


Retired general Otto Perez wins Guatemalan election

Monday, November 7th, 2011

The subheading of an article in the Sunday, November 6, edition of the UK Guardian says it all: “Rightwinger takes victory… after promising to send army into battle against drug cartels.”

“Otto Perez, a retired rightwing general who promised a crackdown on violent crime, has won Guatemala’s presidential election, becoming the first member of the military to take power since democracy was restored in 1986.”


“It is a clear move to the right for Central America’s largest economy and came after leftist President Alvaro Colom failed to contain violent crime or protect the country from Mexican drug cartels using it as a smuggling route.

“Perez, 60, won the runoff election after promising he would apply a ‘firm hand’ by deploying troops on the streets and increasing the size of the police force.

“Guatemala’s murder rate is about eight times that of the US and many of the country’s 14.7 million people want a tougher stance on crime.”


“Human rights groups have concerns about Perez’s crime-fighting message in a country with a history of military dictatorships and killings by security forces.

“The army murdered suspected leftists and committed massacres of peasants during the 1960-1996 civil war in a which about a quarter of a million people were killed or disappeared.”


“The election campaign focused mainly on Guatemala’s battle against street gangs and Mexican drug traffickers moving South American cocaine up through the country to the  US. Military experts say cartels and gangs control around 40% of Guatemala, a huge challenge for the next president.”

With a new president, will the situation improve for the average citizen of Guatemala? When I posed this question to several Guatemalan friends, they all answered, “It can’t get worse.”

Read the entire Guardian article here:


Affording Adoption Foundation

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

This past August, Tim, the kids, and I attended Moguate, a camp for adoptive families with children from Guatemala, in Lake Ozarks, Missouri, founded by one Cindy Swatek. I met Cindy through cyberspace: we’re both adoptive moms, and Cindy had sent me a nice note after reading my book, Mamalita. Later, she invited me to speak to the group at Moguate, which I did.

Everything about Moguate was wonderful—the other families, the resort, the mercado, the friendships among our children—but perhaps the most amazing element of all was Cindy Swatek herself. That woman is a powerhouse. Cindy possesses the same qualities as the rest of us—personality, energy, and a love of life—but to a power of ten. Make that a power of a thousand. After spending five minutes in a room with Cindy, I realized, “This woman can do absolutely anything she puts her mind to.” Cindy is a tornado and a hurricane, at the same time she is a blissful, cloudless, sunny day. And also very funny.

Last year, Cindy and her husband, Matt, started the Affording Adoption Foundation, to help families who may be deterred from adopting because of financial restraints. When I learned this, I actually wasn’t surprised, because Cindy is the kind of person who sees a need, and fills it. If a solution doesn’t exist, she’ll create one. Here’s a description of Cindy’s vision from the foundation website:

What is the Affording Adoption Foundation?

Millions of orphans. People yearning to bring a child into their home. Financial obstacles. Through fundraising efforts and donor support we help close the gap between families considering bringing a child into their home and the moment a child hears “Welcome Home!”

Making an Impact

As of August 2011, $9800 has been given to 6 different families to help bring home 11 children from all over the world!

Considering Adoption?

According to recent studies, more than 50% of Americans consider Adoption, but say that the financial burden prevents them from actually adopting a child. You might want to adopt, but the financial burden may seem insurmountable. That’s where we can help! Apply for one of our Adoption Grants and see how we can help you realize your dream of bringing a child into your family!
And here’s the “Why”:

My husband, Matthew and I have two kids who were adopted as infants from Guatemala and knew that our family was complete but still yearned to help other people either start or add to their families. That led to the beginning of the Affording Adoption Foundation in 2010.

It was one of the most exciting days of my life (besides my wedding day and the days that we found out about each of our kids, of course!) when I was able to call the recipients of our first Grants to tell them that they had been chosen to receive money to help fund their adoptions!!! In one day, I made two phone calls and gave away more than $5000 thanks to donors and supporters!! YAY! That has motivated us to work harder, raise more money and help more families!

During each application period, we will seek donors and have fundraisers to help fund the next Grants. We won’t know the exact amount of each grant, but will give away as much money as we bring in. We are constantly looking at new innovative ways to raise money because we want to help as many children find homes as possible!

Oh, and did I mention Cindy is also the president of her children’s school’s PTA? You can see a photo of her with her beautiful family, above. For more information about how to apply for an adoption grant or ways to contribute, visit the Affording Adoption Foundation website. No individual person can change the world, but Cindy is doing her best to affect one small part of it.